The killing of Tyre Nichols (please note: this link provides background/context and does not show the body-cam footage or autoplay any audio) at the hands of five police officers in Memphis has initiated peaceful protests across the United States, including in St. Louis. This is unsurprising. Missouri has been deeply embedded in work for policing reform since 2014’s shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Of course, these are not events occurring in isolation. The deaths of Black people in the United States, often at the hands of law enforcement, are not new. Names like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. NASW is aware that other communities of color are also under attack. Notably, Asian American communities in California recently experienced two mass shootings around the Lunar New Year.
We are social workers. We understand the power of human relationships and the impacts of systems. A man ran for home and cried aloud for his mother while being savagely beaten by people empowered by his society to protect and defend. I marvel at the inescapable need for human relationships. I am sickened by the intolerable result of a rotting system.
As social workers, Missourians, and humans, we are suffering from the impacts of systemic racism. And as social workers, when we are not practicing from a consciously anti-oppressive, anti-racist perspective, we are risking perpetuating harm as well. I encourage you to read NASW’s Undoing Racism Through Social Work Vol. 2. Whether you are a clinician, an educator, a supervisor, a policy maker, there is something in this volume that can guide you and provide you more resources.
We grieve for lost lives—for children who will not know parents, for parents who have lost children, and for the communities harmed. NASW-MO stands with those who mourn, those who suffer, and those who rise and make change.
To my Black colleagues and all other social workers of color, I cannot imagine what you are experiencing. Please know that as your Executive Director, I am here to listen and offer what support the chapter can. Feel free to reach out to me and this chapter.
To all of the social workers of Missouri, I ask that we follow our Code of Ethics, which requires us to take action towards racial equity. We can do together what none of us can do alone. And please don’t let any of us face this alone.
Cassie E. Brown, MSW, LCSW
Executive Director, Missouri Chapter
National Association of Social Workers